For eager protesters, the long-awaited day is here

Friday, August 27th 2004, 2:11 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Jason Flores-Williams may despise President Bush, but he can't wait for him and his party to get here.

Energy is flowing among fresh-faced college students, veteran peace activists and anarchists who've been preparing to protest ever since the Republican Party announced last year that it would hold its convention at Madison Square Garden.

``We've been building this up, and we want to hit the streets hard in protest,'' said Flores-Williams, a law student and protest organizer. ``There's a seething hatred for this administration, and we want to express that.''

The largest demonstration is expected on Sunday, when as many as 250,000 people are to march in protest of the Iraq war. After losing a court battle to stage a rally afterward in Central Park, the United for Peace and Justice group isn't planning an official program in the park _ but they encourage demonstrators to gather there anyway.

Other left-of-center causes will be well-represented all week _ civil liberties, helping the poor, gay rights, women's rights, the environment. While a few conservative groups have scheduled events, the theme is overwhelmingly anti-Bush.

Before Sunday's anti-war crowds disperse, another wave of activists is expected to mob Broadway theaters in the afternoon as delegates arrive for special performances.

Most protesters have little interest in stopping the proceedings inside the Garden, but every intention of capturing the attention of the 15,000 journalists in attendance.

The police, certainly, will pay attention. The Manhattan district attorney has predicted 1,000 arrests per day, with a strong start on Sunday.

Fearing a backlash, Democrats urged the protesters to be peaceful. Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe said Friday he was worried Democrats would be blamed if voters across the country saw scenes of a GOP convention under siege from demonstrators outside the mainstream.

``I think they're almost hoping for problems up here,'' he said of Republicans.

If Sunday's protest message is anti-war, then Monday is about championing poor people's rights, with two demonstrations planned through the heart of Manhattan. Organizers promise these events will draw ``real New Yorkers'' from low-income communities and won't look like other marches, many of which are coordinated by activists who have become career protesters.

Protesters also promise to be wherever delegates and party heavyweights are celebrating and sightseeing. They plan to start early Tuesday by harassing Republicans at a breakfast at the Tavern on the Green restaurant in Central Park, and some have suggested targeting daily sightseeing tours organized for delegates.

Activists have designated Tuesday as an official day of civil disobedience, aimed at the offices of corporations with links to the Bush family or the Republican Party. Sit-ins, street theater and even vandalism might erupt. That evening, groups plan to swarm the streets around the Garden. They purposely did not seek permits for actions on Tuesday.

Wednesday's events include a three-mile symbolic unemployment line stretching from Wall Street to the Garden, a Central Labor Council rally, a Central Park gathering of the National Organization for Women and a lower Manhattan ``Panty Protest'' to ``bare the shameful tactics of the Bush administration.''

On Thursday, the day Bush is to be nominated, Vietnam Veterans Against the War plan to gather in Union Square Park.

Protesters are coming prepared. Every day this week and throughout the summer, experienced activists have been training the newbies how to protest successfully _ teaching how to organize sit-ins, treat injured fellow protesters and talk to the media.